By Noah Roberts
Swinnow Community Centre on a wintery bleak and cold Saturday afternoon provided the perfect setting for the Invisible Pain Yheatre Company to perform their reimagined version of A Christmas Carol: The Musical.
Invisible Pain Theatre Company (known as IPTC) is run by Gerica McMullen, who played an attention-grabbing Jacob Marley in the show.
Gerica is originally from Ireland and says after relocating to the UK many years ago and she feels very at home in Pudsey as she says the sense of closeness within her neighbourhood is similar to places in Ireland.
Gerica wanted to use her own experiences and passion for drama to give back to local people, so she set up a theatre company: A place where for those who live with anxiety, depression and other health issues can express themselves creatively.
Gerica believes the arts have a powerful transformative impact on people’s health, and it is easy to see why after Saturday’s performance.
After a well-received three-night run at Interplay Theatre in Armley, IPTC wanted to provide a less technical version of the show on a pay-as-you-feel basis to benefit her neighbourhood.
Families gathered at Swinnow Community Centre to watch this striking version of A Christmas Carol.
Act one saw the hall transformed using clever props and staging into a convincing Victorian street scene with an adult cast dressed in traditional Dickensian clothing wowing the audience with an impressive opening scene when they burst into song and dance supported by live piano. There was cheery upbeat tones of hope from local people preparing for Christmas Day.
The tone quickly changed when Ebenezer Scrooge’s character was introduced as a lonesome, grumpy miser who rejects all offers from his niece to support her at the local soup kitchen to make food for the homeless on Christmas Day.
A quick change of scene was made by swift stagehands and the audience was transported inside the school room to show Scrooge as a version of himself as a child. Where the audience was pulled to empathise with Scrooge who was a loner who was unable to make friends.
A heartwarming and beautifully choreographed scene with an ensemble of the child actors dressed as street urchins sang and danced together. With a unique song created for the show warning about the dangers of bullying with the message that the choices we make create our lives we have and to be kind to all.
There was a short interval which was well-timed as the scent of the warm food cooking from the kitchen had captured the audience’s senses. One of the dishes available was a traditional Irish cobble an original Irish recipe made by Gerica herself.
Centre manager Yvonne and volunteers served hot food, mulled wine and sweet treats, with proceeds going towards the upkeep of the community centre. There was also a tombola and raffle which all the families enjoyed. Swinnow Community Centre provides an important resource with local people donating food which is redistributed to those in need. The hall can be hired and is used regularly by local organisations and catering supplied onsite, you can follow them on Facebook.
After the interval the audience continued to follow Scrooge with Ghost of Christmas present: adulthood, where he lost the affections of a love interest, and this reminded him of his childhood fears that he was unloveable.
The balance between scenes was well kept when the child actors returned to stage and filled the audience with smiles and everyone joined in singing along to The Bare Necessities (a song from Jungle Book).
Tiny Tim was introduced to the audience in a heartfelt scene between Bob Cratchit, played by Michelle Corns, who had written a special song for them to perform together. The song being sung between Cratchit and Tiny Tim made for a very moving scene depicting the loving and unbreakable bond between father and son.
The scenes escalated the emotional journey for Scrooge who faces the Ghost of Christmas Future in a well-acted dark and macabre scene where he saw both the demise of Tiny Tim, the fragile and lovable son of Cratchit.
After being faced with his own mortality Scrooge begs for forgiveness for being unkind and promises a change of his heart. He awakes from his nightmare a changed man full of generosity and takes everyone – including Cratchit and Tiny Tim – to his niece’s soup kitchen to serve up a giant feast to all. The whole cast rejoices in a celebration scene singing The First Noel with audience joining in and ending with the cast bowing to rapturous applause.
The play was ended with a quick word from Gerica, who said the play had been designed to remind us that sometimes when people are grumpy at Christmas, as Scrooge had been, there could be a reason for feeling that way. And that even if we have very little during the festive season, we only need bare necessities as being there to support one another is what is important.
The IPTCnow takes a break until new year when it will reopen offering regular drama sessions in the community which are inclusive to all. You can find out more and are welcome to attend by contacting them directly. Check out their Facebook page here.
- Noah Roberts